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The Bay of Love and Sorrows

by David Adams Richards

David Adams Richards’ ninth novel inhabits rural New Brunswick territory familiar to us by now. The land is beautiful but not giving. While some perch on the brink of prosperity, others free fall into the marginal life Richards has explored insightfully in past work.

The Bay of Love and Sorrows is about a group of young people in the early 1970s, beginning with Tom Donnerel, his fiancée, and his mentally handicapped brother. The narrative expands to include three disadvantaged girls (Madonna, Silver, and Gail), who share a rented shack.

When Everette, Gail’s older brother, is released from prison, he comes to Gail’s shack. His self-serving criminality is like a time bomb, and Gail, Madonna, and Silver can only wonder how much damage he’ll do. Privileged Michael Skid befriends Madonna and Silver, and it seems as if he might help them. Instead, Michael ignites a sequence of events leading to murder, the wrongful conviction of Tom Donnerel, and the death of Tom’s mentally handicapped brother.

Richards adopts a storyteller’s voice, telling readers not only what happened, but everything they should know about the characters. This flat narrative style jars at first, but it does throw characters into high relief, allowing Richards to explore moral issues in a stark way few modern authors would dare. Michael Skid’s arrogance allows him to guiltlessly deal drugs with Everette and seduce Tom’s fiancée, ultimately motivating her death. Only as the truth about the the first murder unravels, causing a second murder, and the deaths of both killers, does Michael finally consider the consequences of his actions.

Richards may wrap up the plot a bit too neatly, and his message-from-beyond-the-grave dreams give a New Age blur to a story otherwise as sharply focused as a Greek tragedy. That small flaw aside, this is a powerful and important work.


Reviewer: Janet Mcnaughton

Publisher: McClelland & Stewart


Price: $29.99

Page Count: 352 pp

Format: Cloth

ISBN: 0-7710-7458-1

Released: Sept.

Issue Date: 1998-11

Categories: Fiction: Novels